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Tax officials accused of corruption remanded in custody

Tax officials accused of corruption remanded in custody

Niël Terblanché

THE 43-year-old Olga Melani Claasen and her 36-year-old colleague, Daleen Damens, the two Inland Revenue officials, who were arrested during a sting operation by investigators from the Anti-Corruption Commission, were remanded in custody after their first appearance in the Walvis Bay Magistrate’s Court.

 

Claasen, a Senior Taxation Officer and Damens, a Taxation Officer, stands accused of soliciting a payment in the amount of N$100 000 from a taxpayer in exchange to alter and or manipulate the Taxation System at the Inland Revenue office in Walvis Bay in favour of the taxpayer.

 

The taxpayer could not afford the N$100 000 as requested, instead opted to pay N$20 000. The matter was reported to ACC officials in Swakopmund, and a sting operation was organized and both accused persons were arrested while in possession of the bribe money which was given to them.

 

ACC investigators found that the taxation officials made regular bribe payment demands to some company owners who are in debt with the Inland Revenue with the promise to cancel their tax debts and thereafter credit their accounts in order to claim back money from Inland Revenue and for these business owners to be in good standing with the tax authorities thereby embezzling state finances.

 

Investigators indicated that because of the suspected regular embezzling of state funds all files previously handled by the two accused persons will be scrutinized.

 

officials inland revenue arrested
Pictured: Taxation officers Olga Melani Claasen and her colleague Daleen Damens during their first appearance in the Walvis Bay Magistrate’s Court. – Photo: Niel Terblanche

 

During their first appearance before Magistrate Vicky Nicolaidis both Claasen and Damens were informed that they are charged with contravening of Section 35 (1) (a) of the Anti-Corruption Act, 2003 (Act No.8 of 2003), for directly or indirectly, corruptly solicits or accepts or agrees to accepts from any person a gratification as an inducement to do or to omit doing anything; in relation to the affairs or business of the agent’s principal, receiving such gratification as well as money laundering.

 

State prosecutor Maggy Shiyagaya opposed bail on the grounds that the investigation into the matter is not yet completed, that more of the same offences might be uncovered and added that investigators found that the accused persons attempted to destroy evidence of their previous deeds and that they might interfere with state witnesses as well as the whistleblower.

 

Sheyagaya requested the court to remand the accused persons in custody until 27 February 2020.

 

The accused persons’ legal representative indicated that his clients intend to bring a formal bail application before court on the postponement date.

 

Magistrate Nicolaidis remanded Claasen and Damens in custody until then
In the meantime, the ACC said in a statement that it is deeply concerned that, despite actions taken to stamp out corruption, that some officials, ministries and public companies do not take disciplinary action against the suspected officials or rather inordinately delay disciplinary proceedings.

 

“In some instances, the rogue officials are promoted to higher ranks while bribery and corruption offences are pending against them. Such moral decay and practices do not only demoralize whistle-blowers and corruption investigators, but it also creates a culture of impunity in the public sector.”

 

According to the ACC, fighting corruption is a collective responsibility; therefore, it is incumbent upon all administrative institutions to effectively shoulder their share of responsibility in the fight against all forms of corruption.